Business Dress 101

Chapter 2
Business Dress 101:
Handling Attire Problems
in the Workplace
 Clothes
make the man – & the woman!
 When in doubt, always err on the side of
dressing slightly more conservative than
the situation demands
• You can always remove a jacket, but you can’t put
1 on if you didn’t take it with you!
 Being
less than perfectly well-dressed in a
business setting can result in a feeling of
profound discomfort
 “Clothing mismatches” on the job can ruin
the day of the person who’s wearing the
inappropriate attire—& the person with
whom he/she comes in contact!
 Even “casual day” wardrobe selections that
carry potentially dire implications on the
job can be avoided with just a minimal
investment of time, care, & attention
Know when to dress up—or dress down
 Offices vary when it comes to dress
• No matter what your company’s attitude is
regarding what you wear, you are working in a
business environment & you should dress
 This applies not only to business casual wear but to
more formal business attire
 Your
attire should reflect both your
environment & your position
 You can & will be judged by your
personal appearance
• This is especially true on “dress-down” days
when what you wear will say more about you
than any business suit ever could
• People will actually pay more attention to what
you wear on dress-down days than on “business
professional” days
 When
dressing in “business casual”
clothes, try to put some flair into your
wardrobe choices:
• The “real” definition of business casual is to
dress just one notch down from what you would
normally wear on business-professional attire
 Avoid
jeans; worn, wrinkled polo shirts;
sneakers; scuffed shoes; halter-tops; &
revealing blouses
• For men: wear a neat pair of pants & a buttoned
shirt w/long or short sleeves that has more color
or texture in the fabric
• For women: wear skirts or tailored pants with
blouses, blazers & accessories that mean
business yet convey a more casual look than
your standard business attire
Know when it’s time for your organization
to adopt a new dress policy
 How would you rate the way your
colleagues or employees dress for work?
 Do
the women in your organization wear
scrunchies & mules?
 Do male employees interpret
“permanent press” as meaning “not
needing to be ironed, ever”?
 Does it look like stock in Spandex must
have risen dramatically based on the
clothing choices of your organization’s
 If
you answered yes to any of the ?’s – ask
yourself if the way you & others
representing your organization is
reflective of the professional image you
want your company to project . . .
 If
you are in a management position, draft
a memo that updates the dress code
 Otherwise, consider suggesting, subtly,
that someone in authority revisit your
dress policy
simple, never to be violated, rule that
applies to both men & women:
• Avoid wearing clothes that reveal too much or leave
little to the imagination!
• Examples:
 Men who wear shorts to the office – even on Sat. – signal to
others that they don’t recognize standards for appropriate
business casual dress
 The same is true for women who wear skirts that are tighter
& shorter than “business professional” skirts
 Why
risk the chance of not being taken
seriously by managers & colleagues???
 There
are boundaries between your
career & your social life
• You should dress 1 way for play & another way
when you mean business
 Always
ask yourself where you are going
& how other people will be dressed when
you get there
 Remember
the axiom – the clothes make
the man (& the woman!)
 When in doubt, always err on the side of
dressing slightly more conservative than
the situation demands
• You can always take a jacket off, but you can’t put
one on if you didn’t take it with you!
Avoid over-accessorizing
 Whether you are a man or a woman, the
way in which you use accessories reveals
a great deal about you
• Accessories can communicate who you are as a
person, in the way you are presenting yourself &
in your attention to detail
 Jewelry:
the basic rule in a business
environment is that less is more
• Earrings on men are strictly taboo
• Women should choose earrings that are simple yet
elegant & should wear no more than 1 pair
• Pins provide nice accents to a business ensemble,
yet they need not be the main attention-grabber
• Be tuned into your org.’s culture to decide whether or
not you can wear multiple-bangle bracelets
 In some workplaces they are considered inappropriate
• For both M/F, appropriate in a professional setting
means wearing a max. of 1 ring on each hand, worn
on either the ring finger or the pinkie
Skip the cheap accessories
 The business pen you carry should portray
a positive professional image
 Also be aware of the image that your
briefcase, computer case, luggage, &
umbrella make
Are they as well maintained as they can
possibly be?
Do they look sharp?
Should they be replaced?
If you’re an employer, clarify “business
casual attire”
 Some companies set up a “dress-down
day” policy – then forget to tell
employees exactly what they mean by
 If
you are the person responsible for
creating a policy & procedure manual –
or a detailed memo – that describes
specifically what you do & don’t want to
see on business casual days
• By doing this, you’ll give your people guidelines
to follow & help them plan that 3rd wardrobe
• Mention the basics:
 If you want men to wear shoes & socks instead of
open-toes sandals & women to wear hosiery or
trouser socks w/slacks – say so!
• By taking a few simple steps to formalize the
boundaries of business casual day, you can
 clarify what is & isn’t acceptable
 keep your business environment professional
 & avoid the strange looks from important visitors
Refer to “the Book” to solve attire
problems among subordinates
 Appropriately update the org.’s
procedure manual to include a business
casual code
 Depersonalize a reprimand regarding
inappropriate dress by taking a “rules
are rules” approach during a
private/low-key meeting
 Today’s
managers will have to contend with
fashion statements that send the wrong
message—loudly—to colleagues, visiting
clients, & the boss
 In cases where you’re looking at major
provocations, rather than minor
misunderstandings, your best bet is to pull
the person aside, find a place for a private
conversation, & explain the nature of the
problem sensitively yet directly
 Your
cause will be considerably easier if
you have a written dress code that
outlines your org.’s definition of business
casual dress
• Begin by telling the person that he/she is a
valued employee
• The explain--w/o making accusations or
ridiculing their style—that business casual dress
is tricky & the way the company has attempted to
avoid confusion is by stating what it considers
appropriate in its handouts & printed materials
 Let
the offender know that the company
needs his/her assistance now—that it’s time
to go home to change into “appropriate”
business casual attire, rather than the
“casual” & inappropriate garment(s) he/she
is wearing
• Specify exactly what is over the line
• Be specific rather than assuming that the person will
• No matter how far away the person lives, insist they
go change – this will relay a message to others that
rules are meant to be followed, & if not, changes will
have to be made
Make sure your business casual dress says
that you mean business
 How casual is your org.’s business casual
• The answer varies from co. to co. & not all co.’s
develop formal written guidelines for the benefit
of employees
 You
will never get in trouble for being too
underdressed in a business casual arena
if you follow this 1 rule:
• Change your regular professional attire by only
a single garment
 Example:
• If your org.’s culture requires that you wear a suit
on “business professional days,” wear a sport
coat when dressing business casual
 Example:
• Swap that conservative blouse you wear on most
days with a knit top that is compatible with your
 By
following this simple & conservative
rule when dressing business casual,
you’ll still be able to go to a last-minute
client meeting on a moment’s notice—
w/o having to apologize for how you look
 Is
it appropriate for women to wear slack
suits on dress-down days in professional
environments where this would otherwise
be considered inappropriate???
• It depends on the culture of the org. for which
you work
• The safest standard is probably to keep an eye
on what the highest-ranking woman in your org.
does & follow her example
 How
does your org. recommend that you
dress for work?
 Are you encouraged to dress “up one
notch” from business casual, so that you
look like you are ready to do business on
a moment’s notice?
 Whatever
guidelines your org. has set
out, you can be sure that the way you
dress is a reflection of how credible you
are perceived by clients, vendors,
investors, &/or stockholders
 Ask
yourself: How would others describe
your style of dress at work?
• Would it be “business professional”?
• Would it be “business casual”?
• Or might it be seen as “business sloppy”!?!
 Today
in business, “looking the part” has
definitely resurfaced as a priority in the
eyes of many decision-makers
• That’s why so many org.’s are encouraging their
employees to wear “business ready” attire
Dressing in a “business ready” mode means
wearing clothes that ensure that you are one of the
first individuals to come to mind when your
manager realizes he/she is double-booked &
needs an instant replacement for that upcoming
 “Business Ready” means never having to say
you’re sorry for how you look during a meeting
 “Business
Ready” attire means dressing
for the position you want rather than for
the one you have
 It’s the best (& most lucrative) approach
to business attire, & it’s one you should
adopt whatever formal style guidelines
your organization follows
 Don’t
pick clothes that reveal too much or
too little to the imagination
 When in doubt, always err on the side of
dressing slightly more conservatively
than the situation demands
 Keep accessories to a tasteful minimum
 Avoid chintzy-looking accessories
 If you’re the boss, make it clear exactly
what “business casual attire” means in
your workplace
 Avoid
pointless conflicts—pull errant or
inappropriately dress employees aside, &
have a low-key “rules are rules” meeting
about company attire standards - make
sure you have a documented dress policy
at hand
 Still
stumped about what to wear?
• Try this rule: Change your regular professional
attire by only a single garment

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